PASSPORT UNION: PROCESSING DELAYS WILL ONLY GET WORSE UNLESS LAND/SEA BORDER RULE DELAYEDWednesday, June 13, 2007
Contact: Colin Walle, NFFE Local 1998
President Phone: (206)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Colin Walle, NFFE Local 1998 President
Phone: (206) 808-5764
The union representing Passport Agency workers is predicting greater difficulty processing Passport applications throughout 2007 and into 2008. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1998 (a nationwide local representing all bargaining unit Passport workers) blames unnecessary staffing shortfalls for the crisis. The union strongly supports the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), but is advocating that the land/sea phase be delayed until sufficient staffing is brought on board.
The union holds that the
State Department did not hire the needed
personnel to complete the work despite knowing
what the increased demands on the agency would
be. Contrary to a statement made last
Friday (6/8/07) by a State Department
spokesperson that the Department did not expect
the flood of applications, the union says the
agency accurately predicted the increase.
In February of 2005 the State Department
informed the union that 15-20 million
applications were expected as a result of the
new rules requiring a passport for travel in
â€œBecause there arenâ€™t enough adjudicators, applicants have huge delays,â€ said Colin Walle, President of NFFE Local 1998. â€œSome have missed their trips. We are buried in applications, and workload pressures are undermining the integrity of the adjudication process. Weâ€™ve got mandatory overtime and, in some cases, unsafe conditions.â€ A Homeland Security spokesperson recently stated (5/11/07) that the January 1, 2008 land/sea rule date was a â€œfirm deadline.â€ Walle said, â€œIf that happens the worst is yet to come.â€
Some have touted a proposed â€œEnhanced Border Crossing Driverâ€™s Licenseâ€ as the solution, instead of requiring a passport for land/sea borders. The union opposes this plan because â€œthe process is wide open to fraud and error,â€ explained Walle. The union supports the Departmentâ€™s plan to create new wallet-sized passport cards as a cheaper and more convenient document for land/sea border crossings.
â€œThe WHTI is a vital part of securing our nationâ€™s borders,â€ said Walle. â€œIdeally it would already be in place. We are reluctantly calling for a delay in the land/sea phase until the agency has enough trained staffing and the passport card is finalized and available.â€
Go to this webpage for more information: http://nffe1998.org/news_WHTI.htm